Applying to Graduate or Professional School

Graduate School - General Information

Many students begin researching and preparing for graduate school one to two years prior to attending. Give yourself time to study for and take any admissions tests (i.e. GRE) that might be required prior to applying. Most graduate school application deadlines are between December and April for admission the following fall, but some may be as early as November. Some schools will admit students for spring or summer semesters but not all. Be sure to check individual school deadlines for the semester you would like to start attending.

Application deadlines and consideration for assistantships, scholarships, and other financial aid may vary from the deadlines for the program itself. We suggest you check on those deadlines and apply early whenever possible to not miss out on those opportunities. 

Professional School - General Information

Applications to professional schools may be due as early as one to one and a half years before you want to attend. Many schools require or strongly suggest shadowing and/or clinical experience to make yourself a strong candidate for programs.

Professional schools typically require you to submit your application through a centralized application service (CAS) when applying to their program. This means you submit your application materials to the CAS who then sends out your materials to each school. Check the CAS opening date and deadlines in your area of interest. CAS examples include:

  • Medical school: AMCAS
  • Physicians Assistant school: CASPA
  • Pharmacy school: PharmCAS
  • Dental school: ADEA AADSAS
  • Physical Therapy school: PTCAS
  • Law school: CAS (Credential Assembly Service) 
  • Occupational Therapy school: OTCAS

The Application

The application to graduate or professional school includes a number of components you will be asked to submit. Different schools and programs evaluate and place emphasis on different pieces of your application. Most programs use what’s called a “holistic admissions” process where they look at the whole applicant and all factors are taken into consideration vs. solely test scores or GPA. Applying to several schools increases your chances of being accepted and gives you options to choose where you want to attend.

The application may include some or all of the following: 

Expand all

Application Form

The vast majority of graduate school applications are completed online; however, there may be isolated cases where part of the application materials (such as letters of recommendation) are completed and submitted in hard copy format. Pay close attention to the instructions and deadlines. If all parts of your application, including letters of recommendation, are not received by the deadline your application may not be considered. Most graduate school application deadlines are between December and April for admission the following fall but some may be as early as November. Some graduate programs will admit students in the spring semester and others only in fall semester. Check the program(s) you are interested in for information on their policy. 

Typically professional school centralized application services (CAS) open in late spring/early summer (Ex: May or June). These application services are for admission for a year + from then. For example, if your CAS opens May of 2021, you are applying for admission to their program starting fall of 2022. Many professional schools view applications on a rolling admission basis. That means your application will be reviewed as soon as it is submitted. Consider applying early in the cycle when CAS systems open, due to this rolling admission policy. Check centralized application services (CAS) for when they open as well as application deadlines to individual schools for more information.


Graduate and professional school programs may require official transcripts from every college or university you attended. Some may allow you to submit unofficial transcripts so check individual school or program requirements. Admissions committees can view your GPA in a number of different ways by looking at your cumulative GPA, at the grades you earned in your major, particularly in upper-division courses in your major, and/or science course GPA for example in medical fields. Patterns of improvement may also be noted if you started out with a less strong GPA. Official transcripts for UMD can be requested through UMD One Stop.

Personal statement

The Personal Statement, sometimes referred to as the "Essay”, “Statement of Purpose”, or “Statement of Academic Goals”, is a key piece of the application. It is your chance to provide the admissions committee with subjective information about your preparation, qualifications, and your reasons for choosing a particular program/career. For graduate programs, you may be asked to include research interests and/or faculty who you would be interested in conducting research with. For professional schools, they typically are interested in how you have experience and skills in working with patients/clients in a clinical setting as well as knowledge of the profession. 

Before you start writing your statement, read the directions from the program(s) carefully to ensure you address their specific questions. We have also developed detailed information regarding personal statements in our Canvas resource: Preparing and Applying for Graduate or Professional School

If you want help writing your personal statement we’re here for you! This can be a challenging and important part of the application and you will want to allow yourself ample time to write, rewrite, edit, and refine your statement. Starting early will also give you opportunities to have your statement reviewed by a career counselor, faculty, and/or the writing center. You can meet with us at any stage of the process to help you get started, develop a first draft, all the way to your final version. You can make an appointment with a career counselor or submit a draft of it online.

Diversity Statement

Some programs may require a Diversity Statement. This can be a great way to stand out and to emphasize aspects of your qualifications that may not be as evident through other parts of your application. It can be an opportunity to highlight unique strengths, experiences, and perspectives you bring, and also to show how you value the diversity that others bring to the program, your chosen field or profession, and to our global society.

Similar to when writing your personal statement, you can access additional information in our section on Writing a Diversity Statement and in our Canvas resource on Preparing and Applying for Graduate or Professional School. You can also meet with a career counselor at any stage of the process from discussing ideas or questions you have, all the way up to polishing your final document for submission. You can also submit your draft(s) for online review.

Standardized tests

Check test requirements and deadlines of each school you are applying to in order to schedule your testing date and location. Give yourself enough time to study and to submit test scores to schools. Schedule time to prepare like it is an additional class in your schedule. Set aside regular times for studying and taking practice tests. Most tests are done online or at local/regional testing centers. 

Graduate school admission test: The GRE General Test is the most often required entrance test for graduate school. GRE Subject Tests, also referred to as the “Advanced test”, may also be required by some programs (i.e. Biology, Chemistry, Literature in English, Math, Physics, and Psychology).

Professional school admission tests: Entrance tests are required for professional schools and vary by discipline. Examples include the LSAT for law school, MCAT for medical school, GMAT for business school, PCAT for pharmacy school, and DAT for dental school. Note: The GRE is often required for Physician Assistant programs as well as Physical and Occupational Therapy programs. 

When preparing for standardized tests take advantage of free online practice tests (e.g., Khan Academy, or explore private test preparation companies if interested.

Letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation are often viewed as an important piece of the application. Strong letters of recommendation can strengthen your application and provide a more holistic view of your accomplishments. Career Counselors can help you determine both who to ask to be your potential recommenders and how to approach them.  

  • Graduate and Professional programs will give you specific instructions about the type and number of people they want recommendations from so be sure to check the instructions for your program. Recommendations should come from people who know you well and can provide specific comments about your work and abilities to be successful in your intended program or profession. Faculty, research supervisors, or internship/work/volunteer supervisors are typically asked to provide recommendations.
  • When you decide who you would like to ask to provide a letter of recommendation, ask if they are willing to provide a strong, positive letter of recommendation for you. Ideally, give them ample time before your deadline to write letters. Follow up with them as the deadline nears to determine if they have completed the recommendation.
  • Ask your recommendation writers what information they need from you. Supply them with a copy of your resume/CV and/or personal statement. You could also supply them with a copy of your transcript, a list of courses you have taken from them, or copies of papers you have written if they would find that helpful. Information about the program(s) you are applying to may also help them tailor their letters to that program especially if you are applying to different types of programs (Ex: Counseling and School Psychology). The more information you give them, the more detailed and thorough they can be.
  • Programs will typically email your recommenders and provide a link to an online recommendation form or directions on how to submit their letter to the CAS system you are applying to. Some programs may ask you to indicate whether you wish to waive the right to see the letter of recommendation. Waiving your right to see letters sometimes is seen as increasing their validity.
  • When requesting references from UMD faculty or staff we suggest you check with your recommender to see if they would like you to complete the Student Reference Request Form.
  • Finally, write each of your references to thank them for their time and let them know you appreciate their efforts. Keep them informed of your activities.


  • If you do not plan to apply for graduate or professional school before you graduate, talk with your faculty or supervisors regarding your future plans for graduate or professional school. Ask if you can provide them with current copies of your resume and your personal statement (if you have a draft), to help them remember you and remind them of specific details. Then, when you are ready to apply, provide them with an updated resume, personal statement, and information on the program(s) you are applying to.

Resume or curriculum vitae (CV)

A resume or curriculum vitae (commonly referred to as a CV) is sometimes required for applications. The graduate/professional school resume, or CV, emphasizes research, projects, performances, relevant work experience, papers, publications, and/or presentations related to your particular area of interest. A graduate/professional school application resume or cv is typically longer than a job search resume to be able to include all these things so don’t worry about strictly sticking to a 1-page format unless specifically told to do so by your program.

Samples of your work

Some programs may require samples of your work such as a portfolio, website, writing sample, or art/music pieces. Check with each program to determine what they require, and the format in which they want you to submit your work.

Supplemental/secondary applications (for professional programs)

After submitting your application to professional school through their Centralized Application Service (CAS) you may be asked to submit a supplemental or secondary application. Some schools do this automatically after receiving your application, others will review your primary application and then decide to offer you a secondary application. These secondary applications include a series of short answer paragraphs/essays to get to know more of why you want to pursue that profession, your goals and experiences, and why you want to attend that particular school. Check out these examples of secondary essay questions for Medical School.


Many graduate and professional schools will ask you to participate in an interview after they have reviewed your application. No worries - we are here to help! Contact us to schedule a practice interview (or multiple ones!) to make you feel as confident as you can be before your actual interview. For more information on interviews specific to your program see our Canvas resource on Preparing and Applying for Graduate or Professional School.